Climate change impacts when floods happen and will make costs soar

Published: August 15, 2017

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones



The timing of floods in Europe is being affected by climate change. Data presented by the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) in its Science journal points to a widening flood crisis in coming decades. Shifting flood patterns could drive up costs of reparation and insurance in the future.

In its release, AAAS says it focused on the timing of floods instead of severity. The association adds this approach was best as patterns are affected by climate change and can reflect how impactful changing climate is on when floods occur. Researchers found river floods are happening earlier in spring in western and north-eastern regions, but later in spring around the North Sea and Mediterranean.

“The data reveal that the most substantial changes occurred in western Europe along the North Atlantic coast from Portugal to England. Here, about half of the stations recorded a shift toward earlier floods by at least 15 days over the 50-year period,” noted AAAS. The shift was largely attributed to the nature of soil in this region.

AAAS published details of the FloodChange project, a joint research effort that was funded by the European Research Council. The team analysed data from over 4,200 hydrometric stations across 38 nations in Europe. Data was collected between 1960 and 2010 and was used to assess how river flooding patterns have changed and continue to do so.

The study is timely as flooding causes more damage and affects more people than any other natural event. Insurance companies are struggling to keep up and costs are certain to rise.

“We do have hundreds, if not thousands, of fatalities around the world due to river floods every year. The number of fatalities strongly depends on how well prepared a region is,” said Günter Blöschl of Vienna University of Technology, an author of the study.